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Thursday, May 2, 2013

National Day of Prayer 2013 and Jonah

Since I was in first grade, Americans have prayed on the first Thursday in May for our nation’s needs. (Wiki on National Day of Prayer) But dissenters demur: people of equally informed consciences who want freedom from religion. (Freedom from Religion Foundation)

Our cultural heritage, Judeo-Christian, define our prayers from Scripture. The Bible urges folks who want GOD to intervene on their nation’s behalf to amend their own conduct so that God will hear their prayers.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

And the land can get plenty sick.

In Leviticus, God spelled out what would happen to His people who went their own way – the blessings of obedience and woes of disobedience. (Leviticus 26)  Israel literally experienced all He said would happen. 

America is not Israel – so what about us? What of the church? Do these warnings matter today?

The mystery of the God of Scripture is that He still makes His appeal to return to Him, for there is no other Savior. (Isaiah 44:22 ) He still holds out His blessed hand, which even we resist – let alone those who want freedom from all things “God.”

"I opened my arms to my own people all day long, but they have rebelled. They follow their own evil paths and thoughts.” (Isaiah 65:2) 

The Chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer Greg Laurie said, If God could bring a revival to Nineveh, surely he can do the same for America. Re-reading this short account then shows me how to pray for my nation, my fellow believers, and myself.

God sent an unwilling evangelist to a powerful nation of people who knew not God, much less their left hands from their right. (Jonah 4:11) Ninevites heard the word of God preached, and they repented –from the top down to the bottom, up:

The Ninevites believed God.  . .
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
(Jonah 3:5-10)

Frankly though, I think that what gave impetus to Jonah’s preaching was his appearance – when he showed up on the shores of Nineveh, he didn’t look like a man who had a life-changing message.  Before Jonah preached, God humbled him – so, his prayer is something to consider on this day of prayer – it reflects a man who was humbled: thrown overboard, swallowed up and spit out on a on beach covered in whale vomit is pretty humbling!   He had learned the limits of God’s love.

. . . But you, Lord my God,
 brought my life up from the pit.
“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.
“Those who cling to worthless idols
 turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
 will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”(Jonah 2:7-9)

Unhappily, Jonah never seemed to love the people to whom he preached – he sulked when God did what He said He would do for Nineveh.  His little pity party makes me examine how I feel and act in my little world. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Christians live amongst a diverse and great nation of many faiths, including alarming numbers of those with no faith in anything but themselves. My prayer is that as God shows me this day my issues – He mercifully shows my fellow citizens the glory of Himself – and the power of His word. And that I will love well all those in my humble path today – it is no accident when we meet.

If God could bring a revival to Nineveh, surely he can do the same for America. (Pastor Greg Laurie, Chairman, National Day of Prayer)

May revival begin in me – and in His church, for His glory and our beloved nation’s good.

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